Something new here, to start the year off right. It needs a title, so I’d be grateful for suggestions.
(Part 1 of maybe 2 or 3)
Colleen and Casey are born identical twins, plump, blonde, blue-eyed.
Their parents discuss their shared, identical deformity with the doctors. Colleen and Casey each have not two nipples but eight, the lowest pairs in the place where most peoples’ are, but the other three pairs going inwards in twin lines up their chests, so that the topmost nipples lie just outside the sternum and below the collarbone on either side. The nipples are all inverted, the pink middle an indentation rather than a protrusion.
Their mother says she will not submit her children to the scalpel. Their mother says she’s grateful that God gave her two beautiful children, and she will not change them.
The children are, indeed, beautiful.
They grow. They play together. Their blonde hair grows long. It curls and waves, such pretty blonde hair, and when their father suggests that they should cut Casey’s hair shorter like other boys his age, Colleen demands that her hair be cut short as well. Their parents refuse.
Colleen’s blonde hair tumbles in waves down past her shoulders. Casey’s is perpetually shaggy, astray, curling out from under hats and behind ears. They finish one another’s sentences. They have separate bedrooms, but always know when the other has a nightmare.
They share a nightmare: an intruder in the house, someone nude, sexless, thin, impossibly tall, with terrible huge pointed teeth and a tail. Someone who has to stoop to walk through the house’s halls, whose mouth looses terrible guttural sounds when those teeth part. Gray skin.
This is in the year that they start school. Their parents confer: a dog.
They visit the shelter. Wails from the room with the kittens, and the twins stand transfixed outside the window. The mother shakes her head, takes them by the hand, leads them past the room. They want a dog, she says.
There is a separate room with puppies in huge cages, stumbling and clambering over one another to sniff at the cage door, their stubby tails going furiously. All their eyes — parents’, twins’ — go immediately to the largest one, the one over whom all the others climb. He’s immense, impossibly huge for his age, and silent. Black and brown. His tail thumps; he looks up at them. But silent. No whimper, whine, yap, not even an open mouth. Just those eyes, that size.
The parents confer. Mastiff? Great Dane? Mutt. Just big, that’s all. They take him.
Colleen and Casey name him Baby.
He grows. They play. He is as quiet as he was that first day, but ferociously protective. Quick to put himself between any stranger and the twins. Within months, he’s over fifty pounds; within a year, over a hundred.
First grade comes. In school, the twins are inseparable. Other students want to be their friends, these beautiful blonde children, but they turn away. They smile, but remain intensely private. Out of school, they take Baby wherever they can. Their parents consider moving further out, away from the city, somewhere with more room, more space, more land outside.
It’s a sunny Saturday in May when Colleen and Casey fight. They’re in the driveway, with Baby.
It happens like this: they have huge pieces of colored chalk, chalk as thick as their wrists, with which they have begun to compose a collaborative mural on the driveway’s concrete. They have placed themselves at the center of the picture, yellow chalk squiggles for their blonde hair, blue for their jeans, and Casey has shattered his red chalk, so he takes Colleen’s.
Colleen stands up. She pushes Casey, demands her chalk back. Baby watches.
Casey holds the chalk out of Colleen’s reach. She shouts at him. He shouts back.
With her right hand, Colleen pushes Casey firmly in the chest. Casey stumbles backwards, trips over his feet, and falls.
Baby leaps and slams Colleen to the ground. His first bite takes off the left side of her face; his second, her ear.
There is a funeral. The casket is closed.
Casey hears his parents talk. The phrase that he will always recall is the phrase “put down.” Baby was put down, he understands. He’s been to the veterinarian with Baby, seen the steel tables. He imagines the veterinarian, impossibly tall, impossibly strong, stooping to put down Baby’s heavy, slack body on the steel table. He imagines the way Baby’s paws fold, awkwardly, without her will.
He mouths the word “dead”.
Later, Casey will dream — alone — about the veterinarian, and Baby. He dreams about Baby’s slack body, Baby’s slack paws, and the veterinarian’s scalpel. He dreams that the veterinarian opens Baby’s body with his knives and his thin hands and wrists. The veterinarian peels back the flaps of Baby’s belly with the scalpel and spreads the stomach with his pale hands, and out spill coils upon coils of blonde hair.
(to be continued)